Mansell, Engel & Cole

Cancer survivor now focuses on insurers’ accountability, performance

A cancer survivor underscores in a recent article a truth that is deeply acknowledged by legions of individuals across the country fighting potentially deadly illnesses. She simply notes that they “don’t have the luxury of time or the energy to play insurers’ games.”

In fact, stresses Mariam Tariq, insured individuals stricken with cancer should flat-out never be placed in a position where they are left dangling helplessly by a “power imbalance between patients and insurers.”

Tariq obviously survived her often deadly breast cancer diagnosis. The facts surrounding her experience suggest that she did so owing solely to her own perseverance unaided by any reasonable or cooperative conduct of her insurance company, UnitedHealthCare.

That entity actually denied her recommended treatment repeatedly. And it did so over her doctors’ collective opinion that a long-recognized therapy they prescribed would be an optimal response to her cancer.

Fortunately, the proton beam therapy strongly endorsed by her medical team was ultimately seen as being wholly appropriate by insurance regulators in her state. They overruled UnitedHealthCare after a protracted timeframe marked by the company’s unflagging resistance to providing coverage deemed by Tariq’s doctors as being superior to traditional radiation treatment.

Tariq hasn’t forgotten the experience. She now serves as an advocate for the Alliance for Proton Therapy Access organization, after recently being a legislative intern in Washington, D.C.

Her efforts and those of a wide swath of other reformers now focus on forging change in the insurance realm. Her stated personal mission is “to hold insurers accountable for providing cancer patients access to the treatments they need.”

We suspect she’ll have little problem lining up supporters of that goal.

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